Asylum-seeking children “failed by government”

The government’s attitude to asylum seekers is creating second-class children, delegates at Community Care Live Scotland heard this week.

Speaking at a session on asylum-seeking children, Sally Daglian, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said asylum policy meant children were being failed on many levels.

Describing the detention of children within the asylum process as “one of the great moral scandals of our time”, she praised the Scottish children’s commissioner Kathleen Marshall for her persistent and outspoken condemnation of the practice.

However, she warned that the success of the high level campaign against detaining children in Scotland had resulted in children and their families being moved hundreds of miles away to detention centres in England.

Richard Morran, programme co-ordinator at Save the Children, said child welfare concerns were being ignored and that the fear of detention was having a major impact on children’s well-being.

“In Glasgow the fear of detention is a powerful fear and has as much effect on children’s health as being detained,” he said. “They see other children disappear and being taken away and child psychologists will tell you that this is having a major impact on them.”

He also accused the government of  wrongly classifying some child asylum seekers as adults. “Quite a number children detained have been classed as an adult by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and there is an element of horse trading between the Home Office and social services as a result,” he said.

Daglian agreed, adding that financial pressure on social services budgets meant local authorities sometimes turned a blind eye rather than having to take responsibility for these children.

Morran said the government was failing to meet its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. “All the legislation is about diluting welfare for asylum seekers and we have lots of insidious little measures which are moving us to a position where they will be destitute,” he said.

“It’s as if asylum seekers are involved in a complex game but they don’t know what the rules are and they don’t know how to play and then someone says you are out of time, please leave the pitch.”

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